Should you be worried by the government’s travel warnings?

Everyone asks ...

Should I be worried by the government’s travel advisories?

Travel advisories are issued by Smartraveller, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s travel advisory and consular information service. For each country, DFAT assigns one of four risk levels that reflect the potential dangers a traveller might face.

In the past, the site has sounded like a finger-wagging elder dispensing advice from the recliner. I have a theory that events such as the Bali bombing caused a paradigm shift at DFAT. To cover itself against the difficulty and cost of rescuing Australians from countries that turn violent, DFAT ramped up its advice.

More recently, DFAT’s advisories have been diluted with good sense and they now provide a realistic assessment of risks associated with roaming the world.

If you decide to visit a country when DFAT advises otherwise, this will not invalidate your travel insurance policy. However, if you defy the ‘‘Do Not Travel’’ advisory that DFAT applies to Mali, Yemen, Somalia and nine other countries, and if misfortune should come your way, your insurer might well decide that you have no case for compensation since you knowingly put yourself in harm’s way.

If you’re headed for, say, Canada, no need to consult Smartraveller. Anywhere in the Third World, check before you fly.

Relax as Nassau shows off its true colours

In May 2014 we are undertaking a tour of the deep south of America incorporating Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi for 10 days and then plan to travel on to Nassau, the Bahamas, for about four nights. I intend to fly from Sydney to Texas, join the tour, then fly from New Orleans, where the tour ends, to Miami and then a connecting flight to Nassau. Can you suggest accommodation in Nassau, or perhaps a better flight plan?
- D. Ingram, Randwick.

Your flight plan looks good, especially if you take advantage of the direct Qantas flight from Sydney to Dallas.

The TripAdvisor flight search engine tells me that the quickest flight from New Orleans to Nassau is a four-hour flight via Miami.


Compass Point is a string of candy-colour houses set along a bikini-size strip of Bahamian beach that gets some of the best reviews.

The British Colonial Hilton is a much bigger, resort-style hotel that also rates well. The leisure facilities here are great, and the price starts from just a shade over $200 a night, which is decent value in the Bahamas.

Enjoy Cotswolds with a car

I am going to England in April and would like to spend five days in the Cotswolds, staying in about the centre of the region, so I can use buses to visit other towns. Would Stow-on-the-Wold be suitable? Also, is there a good bus service or would it be better to hire a car?
- K. Lusk, Windella.

Either Stow-on-the-Wold or Bourton-on-the-Water, both close to one another, would be perfectly suitable bases for exploring this corner of Britain.

If you want a more substantial base with a greater choice of dining and accommodation, Cheltenham is a handsome city on the western edge of the Cotswolds that also gives you easy access to Stratford-upon-Avon.

Hire a car. Bus services are set up to serve the needs of residents rather than visitors, and you don't want to depend on their timetables. The freedom to go when and where you want is precious in rural Europe.

Two weeks on four wheels for Ireland's charms

We're planning a holiday in Ireland (north and south) and would like to hire a car in June, July or August. How many days would you recommend to get a reasonable feel for Ireland? Could you advise must-sees and do's and don'ts, and a suggested route?
- J. & I. Stacey, North Ryde.

Two weeks feels about right if you want to get to grips with Ireland.

In Northern Ireland, Belfast, Portrush and the drive along the Antrim Coast, including the Giant's Causeway, are all on the must-see list. From there, you could drive along the west coast of Ireland.

Following the coast between Donegal and Killarney takes you through a succession of wonders, from the picture-book village of Adare to the peat bogs of County Galway, from roofless ruined abbeys to fully functioning castles and rollicking pubs.

High on the not-to-be-missed list are the boat trip out to the Aran Islands, the other-worldly landscape of The Burren, the savage beauty of the Cliffs of Moher, the rugged island of Achill and the poignant geometry of Connemara, where generations of families eked a living from tiny plots of land divided by dry-stone walls. Further south, make a circuit of the Dingle Peninsula, taking the Connor Pass road, which hoists you to the clouds for a heartstopper view before descending to the old fishing town of Dingle.

On Garnish Island, tucked deep into Bantry Bay, the semi-tropical gardens are a wonder, with many species that grow nowhere else in Europe, thanks to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.

From there, turn eastward to take you through Kilkenny and Waterford, and round off your trip with a couple of days in Dublin.

Visit Ireland, the official website of Tourism Ireland, has a wealth of information.

The Bohemian lifestyle

My husband and I are attending a wedding near Klatovy in the south-west of the Czech Republic in May. We will have almost two weeks in the country. Do you have some suggestions on places worth a visit, both in and out of Prague? We also enjoy walking and have been told about the sandstone region near Teplice. Should we book accommodation before we go? Is it worth the detour to visit Regensburg in Germany? We are thinking of hiring a car — is this a good idea?
- J. Asche, Indooroopilly, Qld.

Klatovy is less than a one-hour drive from Sumava National Park, one of the most beautiful parts of the Czech Republic. While you're in Bohemia, don't miss Cesky Krumlov.

The sandstone region near Teplice is the Bohemian Switzerland National Park, Ceske Svycarsko. This is a range of mountains incised by canyons and marked by soaring sandstone pillars that rise from the forest, a great area for hiking.

Regensburg is about two hours from Klatovy and worth visiting.

Hire a car, it's the only practical way to get around the rural areas you're planning to visit, but you won't want one when you're in Prague.

For suggestions of what to see in Prague, get the Lonely Planet or Eyewitness guides.

Venere should give you some good hotel options.

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